A Guide For the Perplexed

a guide for the perplexed

I’ve been chewing through a new book titled “Werner Herzog: A Guide for the Perplexed: Conversations with Paul Cronin.” Werner, 72, is an award winning German film director, producer and screen writer for Fitzcarraldo, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, Woyzeck and Where the Green Ants Dream.

Why choose this book out of the thousands available to you?

No idea. Hard to explain why I was drawn to this. I do recall my finger hovering over the “BUY NOW” button on Amazon and wondering if this will be yet another abandoned, start-but-not-come-close-to-finishing e-book, in my groaning stack of Incompletes weighing on my consciousness.

Why a book by a film director? Do you have interest in film production?

None.

Why this book then? A dense 600-pager with footnotes?

Pay attention. Refer back to question 1. (No idea). In hindsight, I do think that perhaps I was attracted by the potential of finding my community, a brotherhood in “A Guide for the Perplexed” and possibly finding my way out. And I heard a bell – – far softer than a Siren, gentler than a Clarion Call, a chime of sorts from William Stafford: “Listen—something else hovers out here, not color, not outlines or depth when air relieves distance by hazing far mountains, but some total feeling or other world almost coming forward, like when a bell sounds and then leaves the whole countryside waiting.”

So, what do you think of the book?

For a professional book review, don’t waste your time here. Check out: The Telegraph and The Independent. They capture the essence of the book.

So, what do YOU think of the book?

You’re persistent. I’m 1/4 of the way through and hooked. Even if you’ve never seen one of his films, you’ll find a lot to like in this book. As Hannah McGill at the Independent explains this “polymath simply seems to have unlimited enthusiasms – art, music, literature, science, history – and extraordinary recall in talking about them. He is a radar for stories and personalities, a tremendous spinner of tales and a sly wit. Herzog is often referred to as maverick or mad, but what is clear here is that this is a powerfully organised intellect, allied to a creativity that is as disciplined as it is expansive. Reading him expounding on his myriad interests and obsessions, in tones that are full and fluent without ever crossing into pretentiousness or obscurity, is tonic for the brain.”

And here’s a few tiny morsels:

By chronicling so clearly his own liberation from the impediments and strictures of our culture; by showing how to transcend the bankrupt world into which we are sinking, one choked with anti-intellectualism, cynicism, consumerism, fear, cowardice, vulgarity, extremism, laziness and narcissism; by articulating an untrammelled and distilled commentary on life and cinema, Herzog – our persistent, knowing and sceptical guide, his anarchic streak glowing – offers tough-love wisdom to bewildered doubters everywhere, those intimidated by the uncontrollable waves of information washing over humanity, caught in the violent seas of indifference that this godless, technology-ridden, semi-literate age has wrought.

And here:

If A Guide for the Perplexed is a roundabout treatise on how to spark dormant curiosities we never knew we had, immobilise evil forces forever raining down on the filmmaking process, neutralise the surrounding stupidity, clear the decks, wrench from the deepest recesses the requisite courage, flush away all obstacles (internal as well as physical), reclaim dignity (or, at least, adjust to there being none), accept the hardships, stomach the dejection and angst, counteract the self-doubt, brush yourself off after the kicks and slaps, and just get down to work, then it’s the best example in my life. Time spent on work you believe in is never wasted.

And here:

I was fascinated by the fact that premature babies have an ape-like grip reflex and can support their own body weight, something the doctor demonstrates by having a baby hang from his two fingers. Apparently we lose certain instincts soon after being born, including this reflex, but premature babies retain the ability. You see a remnant of it when a baby born at nine months takes hold of your finger.

And, have you and your community of the Perplexed found your tonic?

Any man who quotes Hölderlin’s: “Man kann auch in die Höhe fallen” [“ One can even fall upwards”], will have the answer for me. More to come.


Find this book on Amazon here: “Werner Herzog: A Guide for the Perplexed: Conversations with Paul Cronin.

Comments

  1. David, even when you’re perplexed and one-fourth of the way through something new, you’re way ahead of me.
    Thanks for writing about what you’re finding so far.
    Vincent

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ‘But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for’

    Liked by 1 person

  3. spark, immobilize, neutralize, clear, wrench, flush, reclaim, accept, stomach, counteract, brush, get down. so many strong verbs used in just one of your paragraphs to describe this book. must be a force to be reckoned with.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. If I had money for every time my husband says, “another book?!” (I love Amazon) I’d be able to buy more books! 😂 many are your recommendations; currently I’m reading Anne Lamott’s Small Victories (largely because of you)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. David – Great recommendation. I think I will read this book. —- “By chronicling so clearly his own liberation from the impediments and strictures of our culture; by showing how to transcend the bankrupt world into which we are sinking, one choked with anti-intellectualism, cynicism, consumerism, fear, cowardice, vulgarity, extremism, laziness and narcissism” —- So many don’t even want to try to wrap their arms around these things. To acknowledge, to comprehend, to show a path to escape, is to take steps in life that could change our world into a better place. Our influences are greater that one realizes.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Love the title. It sounds like it was written for me, but 600 pages? When would I find the time to blog? 😀 Happy weekend to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. deeply perplexing but that is my general state thus I am sure this would be the book for me

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I know this is about Herzog, yet the quote from William Stafford left my whole being waiting…”Listen—something else hovers out here, not color, not outlines or depth when air relieves distance by hazing far mountains, but some total feeling or other world almost coming forward, like when a bell sounds and then leaves the whole countryside waiting.” Glad I finally found time this week to come over to your blog, David. You awaken light and inspiration in me. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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